Missouri Courts Overview
It helps to understand how the Missouri state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The Missouri trial court system consists of Circuit Courts, Municipal Courts, and Administrative Hearing Commission.
Circuit Courts are the primary trial courts in Missouri and have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases. Circuit Courts usually do not handle ordinance violation cases within the limited jurisdiction of Municipal Courts. Some Municipal Courts have county-wide jurisdiction and others only have local jurisdiction within a town or city.
If you prefer, you can start your search by going to Missouri courts by county.
Missouri Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases and typically handle all cases beyond the jurisdiction of Municipal Courts.
Circuit Courts are generally organized into divisions based on case type, such as Associate Circuit, Family Court, Juvenile Court, Probate Court, Small Claims Court, Municipal Court and Traffic Court.
Associate Circuit. Within a Circuit Court, associate judges have jurisdiction over certain types of cases, such as misdemeanor criminal cases and infractions.
Family Court. A Family Court division has exclusive jurisdiction over certain types of cases. Cases heard by a Family Court division include dissolution of marriage (divorce), legal separation, annulment, maintenance (alimony), child custody, adoption, juvenile proceedings, child support, adult abuse prevention, child protection and petitions for name changes.
Juvenile Court. If no Family Court division exists in a particular Circuit Court, there may be a Juvenile Court division with jurisdiction over certain types of cases. Cases heard by a Juvenile Court division include children alleged to be in need of care and treatment, children alleged to be beyond the control of their parents, juvenile delinquency, truancy, adoption and guardianships.
Probate Court. Every Circuit Court has a Probate Court division with general equitable jurisdiction for all probate matters, such as the probate of wills, the determination of heirs, the administration of trusts and most guardianship cases.
Small Claims Court. Every Circuit Court has a Small Claims Court division that offers a simplified procedure for most general civil claims for less than $3,000, exclusive of interest or costs. A defendant may bring a counterclaim in excess of $3,000, although part or all of the case may be transferred to another court division.
Municipal Court and Traffic Court. If a county municipal court does not exist in the area, a Circuit Court may have a Municipal Court or Traffic Court division with jurisdiction over violations of municipal ordinances. Some areas may also have administrative tribunals that operate under the supervision of the Circuit Court and hear cases related to violations of parking and traffic ordinances for a municipality.
Missouri Municipal CourtsMunicipal Courts have limited jurisdiction to hear cases involving violations of municipal ordinances.
Missouri Administrative Hearing CommissionThe Administrative Hearing Commission is a neutral, independent administrative tribunal that has jurisdiction in over 100 matters identified by statute including State tax, professional licensing, Medicaid provider issues, disciplinary actions against State employees, and Highways and Transportation Commission actions. Some cases start at the Administrative Hearing Commission while others are appeals from decisions of other State agencies.
The Administrative Hearing Commission hears cases statewide but operates out of one central location.
Missouri Problem Solving CourtsMissouri has created several different types of specialized court divisions to handle certain types of cases. A Circuit Court may have specialized “problem-solving” divisions such as a Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Teen Court or Truancy Court.
Drug Court divisions create alternative ways of responding to certain crimes related to drug use and may offer a way for sentences and charges to be reduced, modified or dismissed.
Mental Health Court divisions focus on the mental health and disability-related needs of people involved in the criminal justice system.
Teen Court is designed as an alternative to the juvenile justice system for certain misdemeanor cases, and may offer a participant the ability to engage in restorative justice.
Truancy Court is designed to focus on the needs of children, from elementary school through high school, who are chronically absent from school but not yet charged with juvenile delinquency.
Where to Find Court Cases in Missouri
The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of Missouri court.
|Case Type||Court Type|
|Civil||Circuit Courts||Municipal Courts|
|General Civil - Unlimited|
|General Civil - Limited|
|Foreclosures and Liens|
|Real Estate Title and Boundary|
|Landlord / Tenant|
|Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders|
|Administrative Agency Appeals|
|Criminal||Circuit Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Felony Preliminary Hearings|
|Traffic and Infractions|
|Domestic Relations||Circuit Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Custody and Visitation|
|Domestic Violence Protection Order|
|Juvenile||Circuit Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Child Abuse and Neglect|
|Termination of Parental Rights|
|Children in Need of Supervision|
|Mental Health||Circuit Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Other Mental Health Cases|
|Probate||Circuit Courts||Municipal Courts|
|Wills & Estates|
|Guardianships and Conservatorships|